A rare story: the story behind Forrest’s historic 11 State Circle

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Canberra developer Keggins breathes new life into Forrest’s historic 11 State Circle site – we dig into its rich political history and uncover a story of heart and family.

Sitting just a stone’s throw from the Parliament House in Forrest, 11 State constituency is a block you may have passed many times without a second glance, but dig deeper and you will find a rich story.

This year, the site went on sale for the first time since 1962 and was secured by Canberra developers Keggins. Through a new development, the company hopes to build on the story of the iconic piece of land where the past affects the present.

Lenox and Hope in the Garden at 11 State Circle.

The block was originally bought by Sir Cyrus Lenox Simson Hewitt (Sir Lenox) for £ 100. Sir Lenox was a public servant with a career that included roles as senior adviser and department secretary and secretary of the Prime Minister’s Department under the Gorton government. Later, he served as president of Qantas, where he fought for women to have equal pay and better conditions. His wife Hope Hewitt was a Canberra academic, poet, member of the Commonwealth Literary Board and Canberra Times reviewer, and they had four children.

At the time, Sir Lenox knew that some of the large family homes in Forrest and Red Hill had been adapted to provide independent ‘grandmother documents’ and persuaded the planning authorities to let him build a property that could be used from the start as a family home with an apartment. , or which actually happened, as four separate entities.

11 State Circle at completion in 1963.

“Father’s plan was for his widowed mother to move from Melbourne and live in a self-contained apartment in the State Circle, very close to all of us,” said Sir Lenox and Hope’s daughter Patricia Hope Hewitt, who served as a 1998 British Labor politician. to 2007.

“In fact, the whole area felt at home: we lived in Torres Street, our second grandmother (Pattie Tillyard) in Mugga Way, our Aunt Pat (Wardle) in Melbourne Avenue opposite Girls’ Grammar School, which my sisters and I attended.

“Every Sunday, Dad took us to church in St. Louis. Andrews Presbyterian Church, on the hill just up the road from the apartments, and after church we dropped in to see Dad’s devoted PA, Betty Townsend, who lived a block up Hobart Avenue. ”

Proximity is something that Keggins hopes the 11 State Circle will offer downsizers – the opportunity to live in the prized inner south without sacrificing space or location.

Over the years, one of the apartments’ most famous tenants was Flo Bjelke-Petersen, who lived there during his senate term. Long after he moved to Sydney in the 80s, Sir Lenox had a strong connection to Canberra and his State Circle venue and made regular commutes back over the weekend. He had a strong desire to see the area developed and activated.

The original building was designed with a European aesthetic.

While Keggins will usher in a new era for the place, developments will closely respect the past. The original building was designed with a European aesthetic to evoke memories of Geneva, where Lenox and Hope lived for a time after their marriage. Keggins’ new landmark development is being designed by renowned Melbourne architects Parallel Workshop to bring a truly global flavor to Canberra and usher in a new era of design unlike anything the city has ever seen.

As an owner-builder, Sir Lenox was practical in the development of the apartments and would often visit the place in his blue 1935 Chevrolet. He was also well ahead of his time when it came to reducing waste.

“Despite the Treasury’s requirements, Dad supervised the building work himself. In those days, government employees often came home for lunch, and Dad stopped at State Circle at lunchtime and again after work to check on the builders, ”says Patricia.

“I remember him complaining about the waste of ‘perfectly good’ broken bricks — and happily telling us that he had sorted through the pile of discards and collected half-bricks that he could get the masons to use the next day. We would go with him this weekend to ‘help’. ”

Like its predecessor, the new development will incorporate sustainable, people-centric design with family and a strong connection to the local area at heart. While the site was approved for 42 apartments upon acquisition, Keggins has chosen to reduce the number significantly to create expansive homes that enhance viability and blend effortlessly into their surroundings.

It is an appropriate next chapter for such a rare piece of land.

More details on the 11-13 State Circle in Forrest will be revealed soon. Be the first to know by registering your interest at keggins.com.

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